Southeast Asia

Dateline Southeast Asia – December 8 to 14, 2020

Dateline Southeast Asia – December 8 to 14, 2020

COVID-19 VACCINE. This handout photo taken on December 6, 2020, and released by the Indonesian Presidential Palace shows workers unloading the 1.2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine made by Sinovac, upon its arrival from Beijing at the Jakarta International Airport in Tangerang.

Photo by Indonesian Presidential Palace/AFP


In Indonesia, the end of the pandemic has begun.

Proof is the photo above: 1.2 million doses of a China-made COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Jakarta on Sunday, December 6. The country expects to receive another 1.8 million doses in January 2021.

Aside from fighting COVID-19, else is happening in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries this week?

Bookmark and refresh this page for updates and analyses of the latest news in Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.


THAILAND: More protest leaders charged with royal defamation

Agence France-Presse, Agence France-Presse

More than a dozen leaders of Thailand’s pro-democracy protest movement were charged Tuesday, December 8, under the kingdom’s tough royal defamation law for headlining demonstrations demanding reforms to the monarchy.

Thailand has strict lese majeste laws, enshrined in section 112 of the penal code, shielding the ultra-wealthy King Maha Vajiralongkorn from criticism. But that has not stopped a youth-led movement from demanding reform – including the abolition of the law in a direct challenge to the monarchy.

On Tuesday authorities summoned prominent protest figures to charge them under section 112 at police stations across Bangkok and neighboring Nonthaburi province.

Eleven were charged for with lese majeste crimes the first time, but it was a second for 3 others – Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul.

Voicing defiance as they left the police station, those charged wore T-shirts emblazoned with the number “112” and a strike through it.

“The Thai government is using the monarchy and section 112 to target people who have different political stances,” Panupong said, insisting the movement will continue unabated.

“Using 112 against us could light the fire for us, for the people who disagree with the existence of the law,” he told reporters.

Anyone convicted under section 112 faces between 3 to 15 years in prison per charge. The law has long drawn criticism from human rights activists, who say it is a tool to suppress dissent.

The use of it has slowed since 2018 due to the “mercy” of the king, according to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, but last month the premier gave the green light to deploy it again after months of protests. Since then, some 16 protest leaders have been charged.

THAILAND: Sister of missing democracy activist asks Cambodia to investigate

Agence France-Presse, Agence France-Presse

The sister of a missing Thai activist pleaded Tuesday, December 8, with a Cambodian court for a thorough investigation into her brother’s disappearance, more than 6 months after he was snatched off the streets of Phnom Penh.

Democracy activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit has not been seen or heard from since June 4, when he was dragged into a car in broad daylight according to witnesses and security camera footage.

The 37-year-old was wanted by Thai police for running an acerbic anti-government Facebook page, and was living in the Cambodian capital in self-imposed exile before his disappearance.

His elder sister Sitanan traveled to Phnom Penh and appeared in court Tuesday to plead for a proper investigation of her brother’s case – which has gotten no traction in Thailand’s justice system.

Sitanan – who has waged a vocal campaign demanding answers from Thai authorities – said she is not sure she will ever see her brother again.

“But if I can, I will be very grateful,” she told reporters after the hearing.

Cambodian lawyer Sam Chamroeum said the investigating judge had asked for more evidence to be presented at a later date – after which they would decide whether the case would be taken to trial.  

He added that the court has already issued charges against unidentified people for “illegal confinement and the use of illegal weapons” – an apparent acknowledgement of Wanchalearm’s disappearance within Cambodia’s borders.

Wanchalearm had fled Thailand after allegedly breaching the Computer Crimes Act and was also wanted for sedition, according to Thai police.

CAMBODIA: Government tightens restrictions to curb virus outbreak

Jee Y. Geronimo

Cambodia has taken steps to curb its latest COVID-19 outbreak, a Devex report said on Tuesday, December 8.

The report said the government not only imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers entering the country; it also moved to publish names of those infected with the virus.

According to data from Worldometer, the country has a total of 350 cases as of Tuesday, with zero deaths and 43 active cases.

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BRUNEI: No new local COVID-19 transmissions recorded for 215 days

Jee Y. Geronimo

Brunei on Monday, December 7, marked 215 days without local transmissions of COVID-19, according to a report by the Borneo Bulletin

The country recorded no new cases as well, keeping its coronavirus tally as of Tuesday, December 8, to 151 cases, with 3 deaths and only 1 active case, according to data from Worldometer.

MALAYSIA: Enjoy a tour of Malaysia from the comfort of your own home

Jee Y. Geronimo

If you’re among thousands of travelers who planned to go to Malaysia this year but had to cancel because of the pandemic, then this one’s for you.

At least 3 Malaysian websites are offering virtual tours of the country, according to a report by The Star.

On Explore Malaysia Virtually, visitors have the option to join live virtual excursions or watch recorded segments of tours in Melaka and Kuala Lumpur. 

Kuala Lumpur On Foot, meanwhile, offers what The Star called a “time travel” virtual tour of Kuala Lumpur in the 1940s.

For a more educational experience, visit Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre‘s virtual safari tour.

INDONESIA: Country sends request to COVAX Facility for COVID-19 vaccines

Indonesia said it submitted a vaccine request form to COVAX Facility, a global COVID-19 vaccine allocation plan meant for the fair purchase and distribution of vaccines.

According to a Jakarta Post report on Monday, December 7, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said her ministry, alongside the Health and Finance ministries, “were in contact with Geneva” for multilateral vaccine procurement.

Indonesia is among 92 nations listed in the GAVI COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), which supports the participation of 92 low- and middle-income economies in the COVAX Facility.

Retno adds the COVAX Facility’s help would allow the country to receive vaccines from the facility for 3% to 20% of the country’s population.

INDONESIA: Country receives 1.2M doses of coronavirus vaccine

Agence France-Presse, Agence France-Presse

Indonesia has received 1.2 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine made by China’s Sinovac, officials said, as the world’s fourth most populous nation struggles to get soaring case rates under control.

The doses arrived in Jakarta late Sunday on a flight from Beijing, with another 1.8 million expected to be sent again next month.

“We are grateful that the vaccine is now available and we can immediately prevent the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo said.